With Spring well established here in the Northeast, it is always exciting for me as I go into the kitchen and see what is left from my Winter stores, and what needs to be added to them. Spring and Summer bring the great outdoors to our tables, and sometimes even us into the great outdoors with the land, and in this case the shore, to our table.
New England Clambake
This version can be made at home, or even in a pit substitute of your own making. No matter where you call home you can have this wonderfully unique experience for yourself. I hope you enjoy!
Something of a cross between a picnic and a banquet, the clambake is a New England Original. It’s the perfect way to combine a day of fun at the beach by preparing heaps of food for hungry people. The Native Americans of the Northeast invented it. When tribes moved from their Winter quarters inland to their Summer camps along the coast, the abundant shellfish, freshly caught, were cooked in a steam pit while games were played on the shore. A clambake starts very early in the morning.
A hole is dug whose size depends on the number of people to be fed. It can be as much as 8 feet in length. This is lined with stones. The “bake” is allowed to burn until the stones are red hot – an hour or 2 at least. Assistants take off the embers and throw baskets of seaweed over the stones. Rockweed, with its rubbery air pockets is best.
Cheesecloth bags filled with clams and lobsters are laid in. More seaweed is added. Potatoes in their jackets (skins), corn in their husks, small peeled onions, sausages, whatever you like can be added in its own bag, then covered with more seaweed. This work must be done fast to capture the steam.
The mound of food receives its top layer of seaweed followed by tarpaulin secured with stones. That’s all there is to it, except for the delicious aromas that will drift their way around your guests. Make sure you melt lots of butter for the lobster to be dipped and the hot rolls that will be brought along too. It may seem like forever but this cannot be rushed. Cautious testing of readiness is important in making sure all the food is well cooked. No salt required if the seaweed is there.
Remember cold drinks, fresh blueberry pie and my favorite – whoopie pies for dessert – and you will have a meal to make even the most salty New Englander envious!